Tennessee’s stifling defense and points from every Vol who played more than two minutes led to the 70-41 dismantling of first-year head coach Mike White’s Georgia Bulldogs.
UT actually started the game off by scoring four points in the first three-ish minutes of the game, and UGA led 6-4 at the 17:17 mark of the first half.
Then the Vols went on a run. (Check out Evan Miya’s Kill Shot rating, which keeps track of teams’ 10-0 runs).
Zakai Ziegler hit 3s on two out of three possessions, with a Uros Plavsic 1-2 from the free-throw line in the middle. The second of Ziegler’s 3 came off a turnover, and by the 12-minute mark, UGA had given the ball away six times, and the Vols turned those turnovers into 10 of their 17 points. Georgia shot the ball 55 percent through the first eight minutes, which kept them in the game, as he Vols led 17-14.
UGA went into a sorta matchup, 2-3 zone shortly after the under-12 media break, and the Vols immediately got the ball into the center of the zone where Jonas Aidoo dished to Tobe Awaka who got fouled and hit two FTs on the layup attempt.
A Tyreke Key 3 broke a mini-scoring drought for the Vols, where he caught the pass, pumped faked, let the defender fly by him and then nailed the triple from the top of the key to make it 22-17 Vols with 9-ish minutes left in the half.
Plavsic proceeded to pick up an offensive foul and a defensive foul on subsequent possessions, but UGA turned it over again and Josiah-Jordan James turned it into a layup on the offensive end. Georgia turned it over, again, but this time James couldn’t convert the look near the hoop. Still, at the under-eight break, Tennessee led 24-17. At this juncture, the Bulldogs were in a scoreless drought of 3:46 and counting, but they were outrebounding the Vols 13-10. Tennessee wins games when they win the battle on the boards.
Tennessee's lead stretched out to 28-17 at the 5:48 mark thanks to a 9-0 run from the Vols that included layups on back-to-back possessions from Plavsic and Olivier Nkamhoua.
Santiago Vescovi’s first 3 of the game dropped at the 3:45 mark, and a steal from Ziegler or Phillips — I’m not sure which... Zakai got the steal on the official book but it looked like it was Phillips who got his hand in there — turned into a Vescovi layup to put the Vols up 33-18 with 3:32 until the break. Tennessee was on a 14-1 run at this point that spanned nearly six minutes of game time.
By halftime, Tennessee led 35-22, thanks in large part to holding UGA to making just two of their final 14 shots in the first period, and the Bulldogs turning the ball over 10 times that the Vols converted into 12 points. The Volunteer defense held the SEC’s second-leading scorer, Terry Roberts, to just two points on 1-5 shooting. The one bucket he made was a jumper as the first-half clock expired.
The second half started a bit spastic — Georgia hit two FTs right out of the gate, which came on Ziegler’s third foul of the game, and James turned it over on the Vols’ first possession. Then Georgia missed a dunk, but the Vols followed it up with two misses right at the rim on the other end. James hit a jumper at the 18:57 mark, UGA turned it over again, and then Phillips hit two FTs to make it 40-24 Vols.
Santi hit his second 3 of the game after a Georgia miss, but Terry Roberts answered with a tough step-back jumper at the 17:30 mark to make it 43-28 Tennessee.
Jahmai Mashack scored his first points of the game on a mid-range jumper as the shot clock was expiring at the 15:58 mark to make it 45-28 Vols, but that was a possession where you could clearly see what Tennessee lacks when Ziegler isn’t on the floor.
The Vols’ offense really struggles to get into its sets without him on the court, and he’s the only player other than sometimes Julian Phillips who can create his own shot by getting to the hoop. He’s also a major reason UGA’s Roberts didn’t have much of a first half with his ball pressure.
By the under-12 media timeout, Tennessee led 49-30 with two Plavsic FTs upcoming. But at this point in the game, the Vols were one for their last seven shot attempts. Thankfully, UGA was also one for its last seven and had committed five turnovers in the last 3:50 of game time.
A Santi steal at the 10:33 mark led to a Aidoo dunk on the fast break that induced a Mike White timeout, as Tennessee was in the midst of an 8-0 run over the prior four minutes of the game. The Vols had 25 points off 18 Bulldog TOs at this point in the game.
The 8-0 run got to 12-0 by the 8:14 mark thanks to an Aidoo layup and a Ziegler-to-Nkamhoua alley oop.
Ziegler dropped in his third 3 of the night at the 7:03 mark, and Tennessee’s lead had ballooned out to 62-33.
By the three-minute mark, UGA cut the lead to 64-39 in favor of the Vols, but Tobe Akwaka hit a jump hook on Tennessee’s next possession.
The Vols cruised the rest of the way in another defensive throttling of the opposing offense.
- Zakai Ziegler led the team with 11 points and led the team with seven assists. He’s had 10, 8, 9, 7, 4, 10 and 7 in his last seven games
- Every Tennessee player who played — except BJ Edwards who only played two minutes — scored at least four points. That’s points coming from 10 players
- Ziegler and Vescovi combined for nine steals: Zakai had four and Santi had five
- Tennessee scored 25 points off 20 Georgia turnovers
- The Vols hit just 10 of their 25 layups but made three of their four dunks
- The bench scored 32 points while the team had 36 points in the paint
- Freshman Tobe Awaka was the only Vol other than Ziegler to score in double figures — he had 10 points on 3-3 shooting from the field and 4-4 from the FT line in just 13 minutes
- Vescovi and James tied for the team lead by each having seven rebounds
- Julian Phillips didn’t hit a shot from the field — he finished 0-7 including 0-2 from deep — but he finished second on the team with six assists
- Tennessee’s defense has now held its 10th team to 50 points or fewer in 20 games